Jesus uses marriage as a window of understanding. He pictures the Bride as the covenant people and Himself as the Bridegroom. Because of the New Covenant which He inaugurates with His Blood and guarantees with His Eternal Life, the people of covenant are the people of the kingdom. Jesus defines the relationship as covenantal because He understands marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. “God joins together” because God designed this covenant relationship “from the beginning of Creation.” That is, Jesus says “God joins together” because God designed the relationship of marriage into which particular men and women enter, not that God sanctions every mate selection that occurs in the individual process.
Jesus says the marriage covenant design is not at fault when marriage fails and divorce occurs, that the marriage design of uniting one man and one woman is not fundamentally flawed because of human hardness of heart. He says divorce proves the design’s fundamental integrity, that the failure and fracture isn’t about the design but the failure and fracture of the heart of those in covenant.
While it may be demonstrated that many cultures see the word “marriage” purely in terms of physical intimacy and “oneness” as a physical activity within the relationship, it may also be demonstrated that God does not define marriage purely as a physical oneness; He sees physical oneness as the expression of the spiritual and personal oneness of the covenant relationship. God designed the covenant to elevate the beauty of intimacy. He did not design marriage as a label for intimacy. He defined intimacy outside of covenant as abnormal for this reason. He didn’t say, “I want you to be fruitful and multiply, so I call you ‘married.'” He said, “I call you ‘married’ so you are one so you can be fruitful and multiply.” God set the covenant as the basis for the oneness, the oneness as the basis for the intimacy.
Leave and Cleave
When Jesus created man, adam, He made him male and female. Later, He differentiated between male and female by creating Eve and bringing her back to Adam to reunite adam in the covenant of marriage. So, we understand that when Jesus created man in the image of God, adam was both male and female, and He wanted that image available in family through marriage. He wanted oneness that would represent God’s image available in the earth through marriage.
“From the beginning of Creation, God made them male and female. For this reason, a man shall leave…and cleave.”
A man shall leave behind his parents and be glued to his wife, a woman. This leave and cleave is so basic that any definition of marriage that ignores it misrepresents the intention of God.
The latter term means “to be glued or cemented together, adhere to, to be joined to.” It is used of relationships that may be considered covenantal in nature, defined properly by their designed purpose, such as marriage, discipling, and alignment. Of course, the “cleave” word used in Genesis and by Jesus to discuss marriage has the sense of two becoming one, to produce oneness, henosis.
Interestingly, glue is ancient, found in the earliest civilizations. Ancient civilizations repaired clay pots with tree sap, made furniture using glue made from boiling animal tissue. The concept of ‘glued or cemented together,’ then, is part of history in every period and culture. The term used in Genesis and Jesus had meaning throughout history.
The Hebrew term, dabaq, is used to speak of our relationship with God: “Fear Yahveh your God; serve Him, cleave to Him, and swear by His Name.” This is the word used to describe and define what God did when He separated genders into male and female then brought them back together in marriage covenant.
The former term means “leave behind, separate from in the sense of distinction.” God says that marriage involves a separate covenant that establishes the roles and responsibilities of the relationship separately from the parents who produced the parties involved. They stand independently, autonomously, and completely. They are enough on their own, husband and wife.